Drought leads to a less bountiful Thanksgiving

(CBS News) CHICAGO - The drought in this country had been easing the past few weeks, but the latest report out Wednesday says it's getting worse again. It has meant a smaller harvest to feed a growing number of hungry Americans.

At the St. Columbanus Food Pantry on the day before Thanksgiving, they placed their trust in the Lord, and then turned things over to pantry director Laverne Morris.

"I need you to take this all the way up to the front row," she said to some volunteers, adding "I need the turkeys to make a second row, right here."

She's kept the food pantry going for eight years. She has no children. These folks are her family.

Every Wednesday, 500 to 600 families line up to get their marching orders from Laverne and their food from the stockpiles of the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Almost 40 percent of the people served here are under 18. More than a third of the households include at least one employed adult.

"The face of hunger is not just the face of a homeless individual, but it's the face of somebody who has a job," said Kate Maehr, executive director of the depository.

And this year is made tougher by last summer's drought.

"Normally by now we are getting all of the root vegetables -- fresh corn. But because of the drought we don't have it," said Morris.

She added: "We're giving away two apples to each family. Normally we would be able to give about a 5- or 10-pound bag of apples to each family."

Monica Bonds, a mother of three, is bringing a turkey home. If she didn't have this opportunity, "I wouldn't have a turkey," she said.

A woman gave Bonds a turkey and wished her Happy Thanksgiving.

Laverne Morris made sure of that as she handed a turkey to a man. "Happy thanksgiving," she said.

"Thank you," he replied. "Happy Thanksgiving."

  • Dean Reynolds

    Dean Reynolds is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Chicago.